Category Archives: Learn About Jesus

Powerful Faith

            Sunday School Lesson

 

Lesson Scripture: Mark 9:14-29

Key Verse: And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. Mark9:24

 

Introduction: The apostles said, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). What could be more important than an increasing faith in a powerful God? As upside down as it sounds, one thing that causes our faith to increase is doubt. Healthy doubt that seeks understanding is a good thing. But when doubt goes to seed, it turns to unbelief. Faith isn’t static—it advances and retreats; it goes forward and then backs up. Frederick Buechner said, “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”

 

The Need For Faith

Mark 9:14-19KJV

 

14 And when he came to his disciples, he saw a great multitude about them, and the scribes questioning with them.

15 And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.

16 And he asked the scribes, What question ye with them?

17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit;

18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not.

19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me.

 

The narratives of the middle portion of Mark’s Gospel can be divided into three parts. There are boat stories (Mark 4:35–6:13), bread stories 6:14–8:21), and blind stories (8:22–10:52). Our lesson text comes from discipleship passages that are bracketed by the healing of blind men (8:22-26; 10:46-52). Faith helps us see well. When Moses came down from the mountain with the law, he found apostasy (Exodus 32:1-35). When Jesus came down from the mountain with glory (the transfiguration had just taken place), he faced disappointed disciples, a desperate father, and the demons of Hell in a helpless boy. Jesus, Peter, James, and John rejoined the other nine disciples. The crowd was overwhelmed with wonder (one of Mark’s favorite expressions) to see Jesus, but the teachers of the law were arguing (“to have zeal with”) with the nine disciples. Perhaps the religious elite were poking fun at the nine disciples’ inability to help the father and boy. Even the father admitted, “I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” The nine disciples seemed dumbfounded that they failed to drive out the demon. After all, they had done this before (Mark 6:13). Jesus connected the dots between the disciples’ lack of faith and their lack of prayer. Maybe they had begun to do ministry in the power of the flesh. Maybe their dependence on God had gone on autopilot. Their faith (or lack thereof) had failed.

 

A Plea For Greater Faith

Mark 9: 20-24

 

20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming.

21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child.

22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.

23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

 

The boy was in a desperate situation. He had an impure (“unclean”) spirit (Mark’s way of talking about demon possession), mentioned four times in our text. This demonic force caused havoc in self-destructive behavior. The boy gave evidence of severe seizures (foaming at the mouth, rigid posture, and convulsions). The boy also was robbed of speech (Jesus addressed the spirit as a deaf and mute spirit) and found himself helpless in near-death experiences (burning and drowning). This text shows our enemy’s attitude toward little children. The father might have been in an even more desperate situation. He struggled with faith. But he did the right thing by taking his son to Jesus. He pleaded for pity (compassion). Jesus asked, “How long has he been like this? The father responded, “From childhood.” Then the father spilled out his true feelings: “If you can.” Jesus picked up on that faltering faith and rebuked the father with a question (“If you can?”) and a statement (“Everything is possible for one who believes”). In one of the most honest statements in the Bible, the father said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” This is honest doubt. John Ortberg said, “Disciples are not people who never doubt. They doubt and worship. They doubt and serve. They doubt and help each other with their doubts. They doubt and practice faithfulness.” In faith there is room for doubt.

 

The Power Of Faith

Mark 9:25-29KJV

 

25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.

26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead.

27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.

28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?

29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

 

When Jesus has to place his power over the demonic forces against our little faith, he gets frustrated. Jesus seemed exasperated when he said, “You unbelieving generation . . . how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” Jesus was underwhelmed by people’s lack of faith (Mark 6:5). However, be careful of overinterpreting a supposed harshness of spirit in Jesus. Notice that he said, “Bring the boy to me.” Demon possessed people were to be pitied, not judged. The young boy was not to be blamed for the disciples’ failed faith or the father’s doubt. The boy was helpless against the onslaught of Hell. Jesus wanted no hoopla, so when he saw the crowd running to the scene, he commanded the spirit to come out of the boy and never enter him again. For a brief moment Jesus let us look into a world without the influence of the devil. In the end, Jesus is the one who shows powerful faith.

The Day Of Atonement

                   Sunday School Lesson

 

 

Lesson Focus: And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

(Leviticus 16:16)

 

Introduction: The forgiveness of God, in my opinion, is the most powerful and therapeutic idea in the world,” said Leslie Weatherhead. A Christian counselor from Colorado said, “The lack of forgiveness is at the root of most all interpersonal conflicts.” We should not be surprised that forgiveness is one of the most emphasized topics in the Bible. The Bible speaks to the importance of forgiving others (Matthew 18:35). The current therapeutic culture speaks of the importance of forgiving ourselves. The Day of Atonement speaks to the importance of God’s forgiveness of us and was at the heart of Israel’s calendar.

 

The Priests’ Sins Were Forgiven

Leviticus 16:11-14KJV

 

11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:

12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:

13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:

14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.

 

Israel was to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). But this did not negate the need for certain people from the Levitical tribe to serve God’s people as mediators of sorts. Aaron, Moses’ brother, was the first to serve in this capacity as high priest. Even though he assisted in bringing God’s people out of Egypt (Exodus 4:14-17), he clearly had feet of clay (Exodus 32:4-6).So before the people could be forgiven, the one who facilitated that forgiveness for the people had to be forgiven. This was so serious that if done incorrectly the high priest might die (Leviticus 16:13). In fact, two of Aaron’s sons already died over inappropriate offerings (10:1-3). The first section of our text deals with Aaron’s personal forgiveness. The steps for that forgiveness were as follows: 1) Slaughter a bull for a sin offering for himself and his family; 2) Take coals from the altar of burnt offering with some incense inside the veil into the holy of holies; 3) Create a smoke barrier between the ark of the covenant and the high priest himself; 4) Sprinkle blood—seven times—from the bull sacrifice on the mercy seat above the ark of the covenant. This would ensure that the priest was pure to mediate for his people.

 

The People’s Sins Were Forgiven

Leviticus 16:15-19KJV

 

11 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself:

12 And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the vail:

13 And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, that he die not:

14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.

 

Once the priest’s sins had been atoned for, it was time to make atonement for the community of Israel. The priest was to take a goat and do with its blood for the people what he did with the bull’s blood for himself. Thus, he entered the Most Holy Place a second time on this special day.

This had to be done because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. Uncleanness (mentioned three times in our printed text) can sometimes refer to ceremonial impurity, but here it is an equivalent to sin. This salvific act could atone for Israel’s sins for the past year. The priest was pure. The people were clean. Now the space where the atonement took place must be made sacred. Aaron was to do the same for the tent of meeting. The space was so sacred that Aaron was to occupy it himself, without help from anyone else. When Aaron came out of the tabernacle he was to take some of the blood from his sacrifice and some of the blood from the people’s sacrifice and sprinkle it on the altar of burnt offering. This blood was especially to be applied to the horns on the altar, and he was to do this seven times..

Feast Of Weeks

 Sunday School Lesson

 

Introduction: Valentine’s Day celebrates love. Wedding anniversaries celebrate commitment. Probably the most noteworthy wedding anniversary is the fiftieth. When couples achieve that, it is called a milestone. A milestone festival for Israel was the Festival of Weeks—an interesting name since it was just a one-day celebration. Israel had many high holy days in their yearly calendar. Those were the weekly Sabbath, the Passover, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles (all described in Leviticus 23). But the three most important were Passover, Pentecost (Festival of Weeks), and Tabernacles. The first two were celebrated in the spring, and the last one was celebrated in the fall. Passover celebrated Israel’s deliverance by God from Egypt. Pentecost celebrated Israel’s provision from God in the new land. Tabernacles celebrated God’s watch over Israel’s wilderness wanderings.

 

The People Were Thankful

Leviticus 23:15-18KJV

 

15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete:

16 Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord.

17 Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.

18 And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord.

 

The Festival of Weeks was observed following the fiftieth day of the Passover Sabbath (the Sabbath that followed Passover). It was called the Festival of Weeks because it had been weeks since that last holiday. Counting seven sets of seven days each plus one day meant that this festival always fell on Sunday, which is important when we come to the New Testament. Since Passover was observed in the spring, 50 days after that would be the end of May or the first part of June. The early harvests (barley and wheat) would be ready. God wanted Israel to offer him some of the firstfruits to teach Israel to always honor the Lord first, as well as to remind them that if they put the Lord first he would provide more for them in the days ahead. Israel would not be allowed to merely waltz into his presence with their firstfruits. Coming before the Lord to acknowledge his provision still demanded a pure heart. So God gave specific prescriptions about how that worship was to take place. Offerings were part of Israel’s worship. From the early harvest Israel was to bring wave or grain offerings, drink and food offerings, plus burnt offerings, sin offerings, and fellowship (or peace) offerings. These grain offerings and animal sacrifices were combined as sacred offerings to the Lord in worship. Sin must be atoned for before worship is acceptable to God. Therefore for Israel, worship consisted of bringing something to God. The list for the burnt offering and grain offerings was: two loaves of bread, seven perfect male lambs, one young bull, and two rams. The list for the sin offering and the fellowship offering was: one male goat and two lambs. Some of the offerings were burned up and some would serve as food for the priests. Both grain offerings and animal sacrifices were waved before the Lord to acknowledge that God was good and that God had provided (and would provide) yet again for his people.

 

The Leaders Were Thankful

Leviticus 23:19-20KJV

 

19 Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings.

20 And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest.

21 And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

22 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.

 

Earlier, in Leviticus 23:3, God had reminded Israel about keeping the Sabbath. “There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the Lord.” That command is repeated in regard to a special Sabbath in conjunction with the Festival of Weeks. Sabbath means “to cease.” Israel was to cease its work on this special day and proclaim a sacred assembly. The purpose was twofold: to thank God for the beginning of harvest and to thank God in advance for the prospect of more harvest. This was to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. True worship always shows up in a tangible way. The celebration of the Festival of Weeks was to make a difference in the billfolds and purses of Israel. As commanded earlier in the Law (Leviticus 19:9, 10) Israel was to leave some of the harvest in the field. This was God’s means of providing for the poor and for the foreigner. They were expected to do the gleaning, but the owners of the fields were to feel their responsibility toward the poor and outsiders. In fact, God’s identity shines through (I am the Lord your God) when this kind of giving takes place. Some believe that the Festival of Weeks was the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai. For our purposes it is best to connect this festival to Pentecost, the birth of the church. In the same way that God provided for the Israelites, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit was just the beginning of God’s blessings on his people in the New Testament.

Passover

  Sunday School Lesson

 

Lesson scripture:  And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. (Exodus:14)

 

Introduction: Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, but before they left they killed a perfect lamb and placed its blood over their doorpost to save their firstborn. When the death angel passed all who house was covered with the blood of the lamb was spared. New testament believers now follow the example Jesus gave and remember He is the ultimate passover lamb when ever they partake of the Lords supper. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb by whom blood all must be covered with when the angel of judgment comes to judge this world. Are you covered in the blood of the lamb?

 

The Passover Lamb

Exodus 12:1-5KJV

 

1 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying,

This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:

And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:

 

Not all months and days are created equal. While our calendar year begins on January 1st, the Jewish calendar began on the 14th of the month known as Aviv (later called Nisan). We know this as spring (March and April). To prepare God’s people for their exodus from Egypt, God told Moses and Aaron, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” Israel’s destiny would be attached to the calendar by one salvific act of God. Even before that act, the day of liberation was to be set aside as a key festival. Perhaps it is like a due date for a baby’s birth. The nursery is prepared, the suitcase is packed, and the name is selected in anticipation of that special birth. In many ways, Passover became the birthday of Israel. The God of the Bible is a God of sacrifice. Since the fall of humankind, God used sacrifice as a means of getting the world back. God instructed Israel to sacrifice a lamb as a part of the festival of Passover. The formula was one lamb per household. But that wasn’t intended to be a perfect science. The total number of people and the amount each person could eat also had to be calculated. Smaller households combined with larger ones. The animals used in this Passover meal were to meet certain criteria. They had to be male, one year old, and without defects. They also had to receive special care during the days leading up to their slaughter at twilight.

 

The Passover Meal

Exodus 12:6-11KJV

 

And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.

And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it.

Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof.

10 And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire.

11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord‘s passover.

 

The blood that was drained out of the animals also had a sacred use. This blood was applied to the door frames of the Israelite houses. It was applied with a hyssop branch (think ancient paint brush). This blood served as a sign to God. When God saw the blood on the door frames, he would pass over those houses.The original Passover meal was one of haste. “This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked in your belt, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand.” Israel was to eat this meal literally standing up. They were to leave Egypt shortly after eating. Therefore the staples were roasted meat, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs.This meal was most engaging. Everyone played a role—father, mother, and children. Israel’s history was rehearsed and relived. God was blessed for his saving power over the gods of Egypt. The elements of the meal were simple (like the Lord’s Supper), but the content of the celebration (party) gave God’s people their identity.

 

The Passover Purpose

Exodus 12:12-14KJV

 

12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.

13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.

 

Perhaps due to the influence of the movie The Ten Commandments, we often talk about the death angel passing over Egypt. God may have used an angel to bring his judgment on Egypt. But the destroyer in this text seems to be God himself. God passed through Egypt and struck down every firstborn child and every firstborn animal. It is not wide of the mark to say that the 10 plagues were God’s judgment on the idolatry of Egypt. Israel’s God defeated the gods of Egypt. God not only passed through Egypt—he also passed over Israel. The other side of judgment is redemption. God’s people were under the blood of the lamb. This became their means of liberation. It was their birthday as a nation, so they were to commemorate it (offer it as a memorial). In many ways Passover was a kingdom preview of the party that Jesus would bring. He is the Passover lamb (John 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Without the shedding of his blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples and took old emblems and invested them with new meaning (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). When we partake of the Lord’s Supper today we are celebrating our liberation from sin. Welcome to the party.